Netflix’s The Adam Project stars Ryan Reynolds in a sci-fi action adventure that sees him travel through time to meet his younger self and reconcile with his long-dead father. The general premise is relatively sound – time travel is established in the future but the film itself takes place almost entirely in the present day (cleverly averting the need for overly excessive visual effects). However, it’s clear that The Adam Project (as it is, at least) was built around one central idea: Ryan Reynolds interacting with a younger version of himself.
It’s so central to the film that The Adam Project was always going to live or die on the merit of the young actor’s performance. Cast in the role of young Adam Reed is Walker Scobell, and he delivers the exact level of sarcastic charm as Reynolds (with a little abrasiveness added in for reasons that work well within the film’s story). The dynamic between the two works relatively well, owing partly to Reynold’s ability to share chemistry with practically anyone and partly to Scobell’s spot-on mimicry of Reynold’s mannerisms.
Rounding out the cast is Mark Ruffalo, who plays Adam’s distracted but loving father (who also happens to be the inventor of time travel), Jennifer Garner, who plays Adam’s grieving mother, and Catherine Keener, who plays the cartoonishly evil Maya Sorian, a businesswoman intent on killing Adam.
Generally, The Adam Project is a sleekly presented sci-fi, although in places, that veneer slips slightly. The most obvious example of this is the de-aging of Keener, which looks distinctly alien and not at all human. However, its action sequences are well-realized, even those that are particularly CGI-heavy.
One of the biggest disappointments of the film was the handling of its female characters. Garner is excellent, but severely underutilized, Keener is reduced to a two-dimensional villain, and Zoe Saldaña is excellent in her role as Adam’s time-stranded wife, but she’s given just three short scenes in the entire film (despite being the driven force behind its plot).
Still, this is shored up by Reynolds’ performance, which incorporates his many strengths. At times, this comes across as Reynolds simply playing the same role he’s become famous for – fast-talking, sarcastic action star with a heart of gold – but there are more than few moments where genuine emotion shines through, highlighting his talent.
The Adam Project touches on deeper themes, but only just enough to hit a handful of emotional notes. It doesn’t explore anything particularly complex or original, but with a solidly written sci-fi story and an entertaining and comedic chemistry between its stars, The Adam Project entertains in exactly the way you’d expect from the Ryan Reynolds-Shawn Levy combo.
Summary: The Adam Project combines sci-fi with action and comedy, although none of its three genres feels fully established. The chemistry between its stars makes it work well, though, even if it does have some untapped potential.
Highlights: The film’s most emotional moments display some genuinely impressive acting from its stars, and Reynolds and Scobell share some entertaining back and forth.